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Two Roots Brewing Co's NA Oktoberfest. Photo courtesy of Two Roots Brewing
Two Roots Brewing Co's NA Oktoberfest. Photo via Facebook/Two Roots Brewing
Cheers! North County Columns Food & Wine

Cheers! North County: Sober October tastier with local NA craft beers

Before we go any further, I need to disclose two things. First, I am not participating in Sober October. Second, I was wrong about non-alcoholic craft beer.

Let’s rewind. Sober October, as the name implies, is an unofficial social activity in which people who drink alcohol regularly, don’t for the entire month. It’s basically Dry January, but…in October. According to Healthline, Sober October began as a fundraising campaign for the U.K.-based charity Macmillan Cancer Support.

The idea being that people would donate money to the charity if people could manage to stay sober for approximately 30 days. There is probably a lesson to be learned about society in there, but I’m not going to dig too deep.

I have to admit challenging drinkers to go alcohol-free during Octoberfest — the world’s biggest beer festival — is pretty bold.

This brings us to the “Why” of it all. Why go sober for a month, any month? For starters (per Healthline), you may see some improvements in your general health. Reducing alcohol in our diets has been shown to improve sleep, lower cholesterol, reduce anxiety, and increase energy. Those changes can lead to a strengthened immune system.

In addition, by creating a goal or setting a challenge for ourselves, we are intentionally engaging with the reasons we drink in the first place.

Do we drink because enjoy the taste? Or to raise money for charity? For the feeling that comes with reduced inhibitions? Or the social experiences? Is it a habit or compulsion? Is it based on relationships or peer pressure or simply to relax after a long day? Is it all of the above?

Local NA brands like Athletic Brewing and Two Roots Brewing are creating communities the same way breweries always have. Photo courtesy of Athletic Brewing
Local NA brands like Athletic Brewing and Two Roots Brewing are creating communities the same way breweries always have. Photo via Facebook/Athletic Brewing

In 2014, a lack of tasty non-alcoholic choices made it more of a challenge to abstain. But in 2021, Sober October is a bit easier. I counted more than 30 non-alcoholic beer flavors available at the local liquor store.

Blake Lively just dropped a new non-alcoholic spirits brand (Note: I just learned that Lively doesn’t drink at all, which is pretty interesting considering her husband, Ryan Reynolds, is the owner and face of Aviation Gin). And as referenced in Adweek, there are an estimated 71 different beer, wine, and spirits NA brands currently on the market.

I’m not entirely sure what separates a non-alcoholic spirit or wine from just being juice or soda besides the shape of the bottle and the branding, but I’m willing to embrace the concept.

I’m not participating in Sober October, but not because I don’t think it is a good idea. I just love the experience of drinking a really good whiskey or discovering a brewery is innovating something new. I also admit that sometimes I fall into the habit of cracking a can open at the end of a long day just because it’s the self-proclaimed happy hour or because there is a game on, and drinking during the game is tradition.

The value of Sober October or Dry January or even just a sober week to me is the awareness that comes with it. I’ve become much more intentional about my drinking, and in turn, that drinking has been more enjoyable. I’d argue it has been a bit healthier too.

Last February, I interviewed Ryan Brown, of Athletic Brewing Company, about why there was space in the market for a non-alcoholic craft brand. Afterward, I gave my unsolicited feedback.

“If it came in a case, [craft NA] is the kind of thing I’d keep on hand more regularly, but at the craft six-pack price it is harder to justify over just a light craft beer unless I’m actively trying to avoid alcohol,” I told him.

Brown politely thanked me for the feedback, and probably thought to himself, “Agree to disagree.”

Fast forward one month later to the quote from a follow-up email I sent to Brown: “Okay. I’m not too big to admit when I’m mistaken. I ordered three 6-packs yesterday, and was happy to pay the craft beer price.”

I was happy to pay because the experience was what I was really after. Not the alcohol. Local NA brands, such as Athletic Brewing and Two Roots Brewing (2021 Great American Beer Fest Gold Medal NA Lager winner), are creating communities the same way breweries always have, by creating experiences around a high-quality product and shared interests.

Just check out their social media feeds! As I type this, I’m listening to a baseball game on the radio. At first pitch, I opened the fridge.

I reached past the Oktoberfest, past the IPAs and sour ales, past the hard kombucha and hard seltzer, and past the bloody mary mix to grab a non-alcoholic beer. I’m Situationally Sober — everything in moderation.

Don’t miss the return of the Roast! West Coast coffee podcast. All-new episodes begin dropping on Tuesday, October 6th right here on the Coast News Podcast page.

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